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review added: 6/28/02



Some Like it Hot
Special Edition - 1959 (2001) - United Artists (MGM)

review by Adam Jahnke of The Digital Bits

Some Like it Hot: Special Edition Film Rating: A+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C+/C/B-

Specs and Features

122 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.66:1), Amaray keep case packaging, single-sided, dual-layered (layer switch at 1:33:20, in chapter 12), A Nostalgic Look Back interview with Tony Curtis and Leonard Maltin, Memories from the Sweet Sues featurette, Virtual Hall of Memories, original pressbook gallery, theatrical trailers (for Some Like it Hot, Avanti, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, The Fortune Cookie, Kiss Me Stupid, Irma La Douce and The Apartment), animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (16 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & DD Mono), French and Spanish (2.0 Mono), subtitles: French and Spanish

"Well… nobody's perfect."

It often seems as though the American Film Institute compiles their annual 100 Best Whatever lists for no reason other than to irritate people and provoke arguments. I mean, come on… 100 Years, 100 Thrills? Who the hell even understood what that was supposed to mean? Perhaps no AFI list was so predestined to start fights than 100 Years, 100 Laughs. More than any other genre, your taste in comedy is highly personal and subjective. Face it. Laughter is universal. Comedy is not. If everybody in the world shared my sense of humor, I'd be summering in the Hamptons right now, on hiatus from my tremendously popular sitcom.

At any rate, there is plenty to argue over on AFI's comedy list. But the fact that Some Like it Hot is ranked at #1… well, I've got no beef with that. Other movies have made me laugh harder and longer than this one, but the comedy in Some Like it Hot is so elegant, so perfectly crafted, it's almost Shakespearean. The film takes place during Prohibition, when organized crime was in its heyday. Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon play Joe and Jerry, two starving musicians who have the misfortune to witness the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Mob boss Spats Colombo (George Raft) orders the boys wiped out, so a desperate Joe and Jerry take the only way out of Chicago they have: disguising themselves as women to join an all-girl band on their way to Florida. Complicating things further is the irresistible lead singer, Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe at her best). Both Joe and Jerry (now "Josephine" and "Daphne" because Jerry doesn't like the name "Geraldine") are attracted to Sugar, but only Joe gets anywhere when he takes on another disguise, this time as a frigid (but male) millionaire. Meantime, Jerry has his own rich suitor (Joe E. Brown) to contend with.

Men in drag is a comedic staple, but rarely has it been handled with as much wit and style as it is here. Tootsie comes closest to approaching this level of sophistication, but it tends to get bogged down in sentimentality toward its conclusion. Some Like it Hot avoids this problem totally. The late, great director Billy Wilder never once loses sight of the fact that he's making a comedy, and priority one has to be laughs. Although the movie crosses the two-hour mark, it never once drags… I mean, slows down. Wilder and his longtime writing partner I.A.L. Diamond crafted an ideal script, with dialogue that is both hilariously clever and moves the story along… and has probably the single greatest closing line in movie history. As for the cast, Lemmon and Curtis are fantastic, no matter what they're wearing. Lemmon, of course, would go on to make several more classic comedies both with and without Wilder, but Curtis was never funnier than he is here. And then there's Marilyn. If you only see one Marilyn Monroe movie, make it this one. Some Like it Hot captures everything that made her legendary. She's funny, touching and, needless to say, unbelievably sexy.

MGM has released two versions of Some Like it Hot on DVD: a bare-bones edition as well as a special edition (reviewed here), which runs about $7-10 more. Both discs use the same non-anamorphic transfer. The picture is not great, with a lot of wear and tear on the print, an occasionally unstable image (that is particularly distracting during the opening credits) and very noticeable edge enhancement, especially in the Chicago scenes for some reason. It could and has looked much worse, I suppose, but a movie of this stature deserves much better. The sound is equally underwhelming. The "digitally enhanced" 5.1 surround mix is thin and virtually indistinguishable from the original mono track, which isn't much better but at least it's presented the way Wilder intended. Despite a few enjoyable songs, this isn't a movie that is going to benefit much from an audio upgrade.

The extras on the special edition aren't the most comprehensive I've ever seen and it's debatable whether or not they're worth the extra money. Most enjoyable is a 30-minute interview with Tony Curtis, conducted by Leonard Maltin. Curtis is still quite a character and his stories about Lemmon, Monroe and Wilder are terrific. Curtis seems genuinely proud to be associated with the movie, as well he should be. Also interviewed on the disc are four members of Sweet Sue's band. Running a mere 12 minutes, we don't get a great deal of insight into the movie here, but it's nice to hear from these ladies. The Virtual Hall of Memories is nothing more than an extensive still gallery divided into five groups: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Billy Wilder and Behind-the-Scenes. The pictures are good, and there are a lot of them, but it's presented as a video feature, not a series of still images that you can go through at your own pace. Rounding out the disc are the film's original pressbook, with vintage newspaper ads and promotional photos, and seven theatrical trailers in fairly ragged condition for Billy Wilder films, including this one.

Some Like it Hot is an easy movie to recommend, but the DVD is not. The extra features are certainly acceptable for a disc that's as relatively inexpensive as this one, but the uneven quality of the movie's presentation may cause some fans to steer clear. Not to mention the fact that the special edition comes saddled with grotesque cover art that makes Marilyn Monroe look like Popeye. Some Like it Hot is definitely a movie worth owning on DVD, especially if you can pick it up cheap. Otherwise, you may want to hold out for the movie to receive a proper restoration.

Adam Jahnke
ajahnke@thedigitalbits.com




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